By Jason Meyers
The fact there are now more than 600,000 podcasts is both an opportunity and a challenge for associations: It’s clear that the format continues to grow in popularity, but how can podcasts dedicated to specific professions and industry sectors compete with all that noise?
That’s one of the topics that was addressed in an Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn hosted in January in the Chicago offices of association management company SmithBucklin. During a panel discussion and interactive session, representatives from different SmithBucklin client organizations shared examples of how they have navigated the podcasting realm, offered guidance and suggestions for best practices based on their experiences, and gave attendees the opportunity to workshop their own customized approaches.
Ask the Experts
As with all other forms of content, association podcast topics must be highly relevant to members of their targeted professions to be appealing to prospective listeners. To that end, tapping an established educational content structure can help ensure alignment and relevance of podcast content.
“LMA has a developed body of knowledge, and all of the content we create online — in-person, print, podcasts, blog — maps back to the body of knowledge,” says Holly Amatangelo, director of education for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA), an organization of marketing professionals in law firms.
LMA’s approach is to match topics from its body of knowledge with members who are experts in specific areas and tap those people for podcasts.
“There are lots of subject matter experts in the LMA community, and they have a lot to say,” Amatangelo says. “The members who helped develop specific domains often host specific topics on the podcast, which has been very well-received.”
SIGGRAPH, a special interest group of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), looks to its conference to guide its podcast approach.
“We speak with scientists, engineers, film makers, and others about the projects they will present at the conference,” said Emily Drake, senior marketing coordinator for SIGGRAPH. “We have a lot of committees that help us identify members who have dynamic personalities that are good for this medium.”
Engage the Audience
As much as subject matter affects the extent podcasts grab the attention of their intended audiences, format and strategy for distribution also play significant roles.
“One of the great things about podcasts is that you don’t have to find a time for everyone to join and watch live, like a webinar,” Amatangelo says. “You can record them anytime and release them anytime.”
While many podcasts share similar structural elements — standard intro and outro, digestible length of 20 to 30 minutes, theme music to convey consistent branding — they typically are not scripted, which helps differentiate them from more formal webinars.
“Podcasts are meant to be very conversational and informal,” Amatangelo says. “That means you have to get the speakers comfortable with the format.”
Frequency often depends on available guests and subject matter. For its part, SIGGRAPH tries to produce at least one per month, Drake says. “The challenge is to find the right angle and unique value compared to other content that’s out there,” she says.
A well-planned strategy for distribution is critical for getting the attention of the targeted audience. LMA posts its podcast to its website and promotes it through newsletters and social media, Amatangelo says, but also leverages Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, and a third-party media partner for additional distribution. The organization also will publish a blog post about each episode and embed the audio into the blog.
An important thing to remember about podcasts is that they typically are components of broader association strategies, aligned with and complementary to publications, online content, educational content, and other initiatives. Done well, podcasts can be highly effective tools for associations to engage, educate, and inform both current and prospective members, as well as broader communities of industry professionals.
Jason Meyers is senior director of content strategy for SmithBucklin.